Becoming a Rennaissance Writer

Earlier this year I finished the UNDER THE NEVER SKY series, which felt pretty darn awesome. It was something I honestly wasn’t sure I could do, being that it was my first trilogy. But I did it. Phew.

I wrote those three novels in a close third person voice, with dual points of view, past tense.

Got all of that?

Let’s call the combination of those settings the UTNS lens.

I used it for many years, since early 2009, or perhaps even earlier than that, as I churned my way through 1,100 pages of finished story, each of which required countless, countless revision.

I burned that UTNS lens down to the point that a funny happened: I started to convince myself that it was my only lens. That I did not possess the ability to tell a story any other way.

Not only did I convince myself of this, but I began fret about it.

You can’t write first person! I told myself, when it became time to work on new manuscripts. And forget about present tense! Oh, and don’t even try to write a book in a single point of view! FORGET. IT! (I tend to be very emphatic in my self-criticism.)

But then the rebel-artist in me woke up, flipped my internal critic the bird and started writing anyway.

Different stuff.

Way different.

And lots of way different stuff.

I’m currently working on a contemporary romance that’s first person present, and a YA (or maybe NA) fantasy-ish (or maybe horror) thing that’s first person present and past.

And you know what? I’m pulling them off. Or at least I’ve glimpsed enough potential in my first drafts to feel encouraged that I’ll be able to, after a lot of hard work. Who knows? Maybe in five years I’ll wonder if I could ever get back to the UNTS lens again.

Why do we pigeon-hole ourselves as writers? Why do we try to make ourselves into specialists? We’re not doing surgery on heart-valves. We’re not one cog in a long assembly line. We are writers--masters of our worlds. We have control.

And look at DaVinci! He was a mathematician, painter, sculptor, inventor, architect, biologist, geologist, engineer, and writer. I may have even missed a few things. Look at Michelangelo, who was an architect, sculptor, and painter. Decent painter, too! Have you seen the Sistine Chapel in real life? That guy was no joke. Look at James Franco, who moves from acting in Oscar-nominated films, to acting in daytime soaps, to painting, to screenwriting. Or Kathryn Bigelow, my girl-crush, who received an Oscar for directing THE HURT LOCKER and happens to also be a kickass painter.

Here is my cat, Ivan, who has no problem being
extremely adorable AND deadly to small animals.
He doesn't pigeonhole himself. Why should we?
All I want to do is write a great first person voice. Seriously. Can’t I do that?

The answer is yes. Yes, I can.

Yes, you can.

Let’s all climb out of the boxes we put ourselves in.

Let’s try out some new lenses.

Let’s be fearless with our art.

Let’s believe that words, and images, and characters, and stories are ours to play with. Ours to own, and master, and manipulate, not the other way around.

Let's flip our internal critics the bird.

Someone once told me that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

I believe art—real art, the kind that matters—does, too.

Join me. Let’s come up to the edge, and then blaze right past it.


Awesome stuff, V! Thanks for the inspiration!

Funny, but my boss is convinced he can't write anything BUT first person. For his thriller currently being shopped, he had to write all three POV characters in the first person, then translate later into third -- one at a time. When he tries first drafts in third, the character seems flat and -- well, emotionally challenged. I'm going to show him your piece, tell him to try again.

Katy said I should read this post today--of course I would have anyway. But I definitely needed it now. Thanks, V.

I used to write in first and translate to third, too! I guess you do whatever works, right? Thanks for stopping by.

Aw, thanks, Beth. Glad it was helpful.

This is very encouraging Veronica! Thanks for sharing.

Enjoyed hearing your internal journey, Veronica!

Veronica, funny you should blog, . . . have a question. I've read your blog re Story Masters, but am wondering if you would share how the the experience played out in your process, from all the glory of perspective. I have the chance to go to the upcoming SM in Minneapolis, and am seriously considering it. I think Donald Maass rocks.

I loved Under The Never Sky. Perhaps the best 'first time' ever written. Will order all three books once the last one comes out.

BTW, my killer kitten says he can take Ivan, any time, any day. Would that not be cat?, LOL!

I can vouch for the fact that you can, indeed, write a stellar first person POV. One that's so wry and funny it makes me chuckle at every other line and wish I had the whole book to read in one, chocolatey gulp instead of in excerpts that tantalize and tease. Keep writing, V. Don't stop. Not ever.

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